Agencies have ignored staff retention for too long. Here’s how they can change
Agencies won’t get very far if the staff don’t stick around. While some turnover is expected, teams made up of long-term members can provide consistency, reliability, and chemistry that can’t be bought. Over the past year, however, the market has favored those looking elsewhere. In a recent Twitter debate, advertising veteran Derek Walker suggested that agencies have ignored these issues, rely on an excess of candidates to the detriment of the sustainability of their company. The flaws in this strategy were exposed during the pandemic when agency professionals fled some businesses and rushed to others.
Does your company monitor retention? And how do you create an environment that fosters staff loyalty? Body spirit? Really interesting corporate benefits? Or do you just make sure you pay better than the other guys? We asked expert agency leaders for their perspective.
How do you solve a problem like… staff retention?
Carly Avener, Managing Director, Leo Burnett
Leo Burnett has low churn: We recently celebrated several anniversaries that demonstrate the strength of our culture and our ability to retain staff, including our incredible Office Manager, who has been with us for 50 years.
This is due to the momentum we have as an agency: the great work we do and the effort we put in to ensure our people are clear about Leo’s purpose and their role within it. -this.
We invest in things that matter to our employees (training, D&I, mental health, sustainability), communicate openly with the agency, and ensure people are fairly rewarded for their hard work.
Kev Chesters, Strategic Partner, Harbor Collective
I don’t think the ‘Great Resignation’, the ‘Great Reset’ or the pandemic really changed the fundamentals.
To limit employee turnover, always show people that you value them as people first and employees second.
It’s about giving people the flexibility to work the way they work best, compensating them fairly, and providing them with a clear path to progress.
Also, don’t try to keep people who don’t want to stay. More than half of the people who accept a counter-offer are no longer in the same position twelve months later. As in all relationships, sometimes it’s better to part ways amicably.
Anne Stagg, UK Managing Director, Merkle
We have ensured that our leadership team is as visible and accessible as possible to all employees. We believe it is essential to build an infrastructure from the ground up and embed an inclusive culture where employees can speak openly without judgment and feel supported, and where feedback is valued and implemented.
We have achieved this through regular sessions with senior leaders and proactive mental health and meditation initiatives to provide staff with the opportunity to engage in open dialogue with the broader workforce. Competing on pay alone may not be the only option, but creating a truly collaborative workforce, engaging people and using positive influence will go a long way in minimizing turnover. Staff.
Ewen MacPherson, Group Human Resources Director, Havas UK
I agree that “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers”, which Derek’s tweet alludes to, but the current talent crisis is much more complex than that. It’s a confluence of different dynamics, many of which are positively driven. Additionally, the majority of people moving now (in all industries) weren’t actually looking in the first place – scarcity in the market creates opportunity (and inflates salaries disproportionately), and these factors distract from positive employment experiences.
Our employees have rated us as a great place to work for three years in a row and in the toughest times. Sometimes you have to accept that all you can do is your best – treat your employees well, create an exceptional employee experience, and let the rest take care of itself.
Tilly Morgan, Director of Operations and People, Wilderness
At Wilderness, staff retention is tracked monthly against our new hire forecast to ensure overall growth for the year. We conduct monthly employee engagement, leadership and management surveys to get direct feedback from our team on areas where we can improve. From these surveys, we were able to identify employees who were considering new opportunities at other companies, speak to them directly, and generate a future roadmap of their progression. This has allowed us to extend the average life cycle of team members from six to 12 months.
People like to know where they are going and how to get there. At Wilderness, we invest time in identifying opportunities, mapping routes to get there, and financially investing in staff training to support their journey.
Aubree Cross, Vice President of Marketing, Booyah Advertising
We have always known that talented and fulfilled people are the key to the success of our agency. The stability that high retention brings to both the customer experience and our general operations is invaluable. We trust our teams and invest in them and their careers.
With benefits like professional management training, strong 401k matching, and a decade-plus unlimited PTO program, we help our team members feel fulfilled and excited about working at Booyah for the long term. One of the biggest mistakes an agency can make is taking its employees for granted.
James Maxwell, Executive Creative Director, Teamspirit
If you want people to stay, you need to focus on them and how you treat them day to day, not the benefits. Life happens: their dogs die; grannies get sick; the boilers break down; ambitions change. We believe in really showing our care and care for people, and that means trusting them, not micro-managing them, flexibility where needed and much more, vital support – but often not flashy-. That’s why we don’t dictate for what reasons compassionate leave can be taken: it’s not up to us to know who matters most. This is why our parental leave is inclusive and covers all types of family structure and composition.
If you treat people as if the things that matter to them matter to you as a business, then the long-term plans that matter to you, the business, are more likely to matter to them.
Chris Jefford, Managing Director, Truant London
The key to employee retention is not pay and benefits. People stay – in our experience – when they buy into the vision and values, and when they see these come to fruition in the workplace culture. And when the team is given the confidence, freedom and autonomy to make decisions that allow them to leave their indelible mark on the company.
No amount of free drinks, table tennis competitions, or summer Fridays can hide a shitty culture, and pay raises just hide the cracks for so long. So create a vision that people want to play a part in and let them.
Jason Cobbold, Managing Director, BMB
The agency’s preoccupation with bright new hires is a bit like an addiction to new business — and just as misplaced. It doesn’t matter if you lose the things you value the most.
In a world where the ability to have a flexible workforce that can scale up and down really matters, so does having a stable, passionate and motivated core. Having the same group of people growing together and understanding each other is often the differentiator for an agency. We need to move from celebrating the magic of the new to the real magic that comes from consistency.
James Callahan, Co-Founder and Managing Director, FutureDeluxe
Companies have to work really hard these days to make sure their teams are happy, motivated, inspired, valued, well paid and part of a vibrant community. Otherwise they will leave. Or, at least, not give it their best.
Historically, we have had quite impressive staff retention. Empathy is the key. Understand how the staff feels, then do something about it. Don’t underestimate the power of a good conversation over coffee.
We offer unlimited vacations, flexible and remote working and a great atmosphere. Even so, keeping staff happy and motivated to stay long term is a work in progress and something we are always looking to improve.
Mark McDonagh, Director of Client Services, EBY
From experience, many agencies talk about a good game, only to have staff members sobbing in the toilets because of the toxic environment that exists, and then they leave.
Action speaks louder than words; Genuine support and flexibility has been key to retaining our staff at EBY. More than 50% of our team of 14 people have been part of the agency for more than 10 years. Whether it’s helping team members relocate, flexible working hours, or not losing a single person during the pandemic, these are things that are (almost) as important as raises. salary and promotions.
Patti McConnell, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Something Different
We expect there to be more to life than work. We talk about our talent: go see your sister in London. Go football coach. Work abroad. Bring back that juju. We trust, and that makes people want to stay. Before Covid, we worked from anywhere – it was part of our founding model. Booking a mid-day appointment is no problem, just do your job. With trust comes individual ownership and responsibility, which gives power.
In the office, we treat the staff to lunches and coffees, we eat together. This in addition to giving raises and continuing to pay 100% health benefits and matching 401Ks.
Do you want to participate in future debates? Email me at [email protected]